The beginning of an academic year is always an exciting time. Most of the students have had a break from classes for the summer and are looking forward to resuming their studies and connecting with friends on campus. Faculty have had time to reflect on their classes as well as the opportunity to engage in research and creative activity and are looking forward to a new academic year. Staff have had the summer to catch up with projects and to reflect on how to proceed with other projects and processes in a slightly less hectic environment.
I have always found the beginning of the Fall semester my favorite time of the academic year.
Of course, the School of Arts and Humanities (and the university as a whole) had a beginning last year with the shift from quarters to semesters and the new General Education program. Faculty members will naturally still be in the process of revising courses in their teaching portfolio through at least this year as a result of this shift.
The beginning of this academic year is especially exciting because of the construction of the new Humanities Office Building (or “HOB” as some are affectionately calling it). Faculty, staff, and students are all no doubt curious as to how that will look in terms of faculty offices and the Student Center and how the School can thrive with this new building.
This is also a beginning for me as Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities at CSUB. A native Southern Californian, I have spent the last 26 years of my career at a regional state university in Pennsylvania. I have deep interests in all the disciplines in our school and I am very excited to have the opportunity of working with you all.
Good luck to everyone this academic year!
This past weekend, my son was invited to an end-of-year celebration for his elementary school drama club. The invitation encouraged students to dress up. As a new member of the club this year, my son arrived in spiffy dress pants and a yellow polo shirt, only to find a throng of girls in fancy gowns and boys with sports jackets and bow ties. They were awaiting to walk the red carpet! Even elementary school kids know the red carpet is something special.
For me, our special season at CSU, Bakersfield begins with my red regalia. Donning the PhD robe to induct students into Alpha Chi, a national honors society, and to recognize our two-year and four-year Helen Hawk Honors Program graduates, is the first of many recognition ceremonies in the last month of the academic year.
We are particularly proud of the amazing students celebrated this year at the School of Arts and Humanities Honors Convocation.
Outstanding Visual Arts Project
Joyce Kohl, Nominating Faculty
Outstanding Performing Arts Project
Soo-Yeon Park, Nominating Faculty
Outstanding Humanities Paper
Doug Dodd, Nominating Faculty
Departmental Outstanding MA Graduates
Kim Kartinen History
Mario Nunez Spanish
Departmental Outstanding BA Graduates
Julissa Cardenas Art & Art History
Maria Rodriguez Ornelas Communications
Heather Simmons English
Daniel Kirk History
Jennifer Valencia Interdisciplinary Studies
Maria Rodriguez Ornelas Modern Languages & Literatures
Courtney Sangis Music
Scott Gregory Heilman Philosophy
Sharon Whealy Religious Studies
Anthony Salvador Jauregui IV Theatre
Outstanding BA Graduate of the School of Arts and Humanities
Maria Rodriguez Ornelas
Additional commencement-season (regalia season!) events include Roadrunner Society, Antelope Valley Grad Reception, Lavender Celebration, Black Student Recognition, M.E.Ch.A Chicano Reception, and (the grand finale!) Graduate Hooding and Undergraduate Commencement. Each ceremony marks a moment of celebration, recognition, and transition. There is plenty to celebrate. The successful conclusion of years of dedication to mastering foundational skills, course content, ways of knowing, and habits of being, have equipped graduates for the next stage in their life journey.
I’d like to conclude this post with a few words directly to our soon-to-be graduates. First, I hope you take the time to celebrate your accomplishments with friends and family. Our record number of RSVPs for commencement suggest many of you are willing and ready to rejoice! Second, although we are all here to celebrate you, I hope you recognize that you have not achieved this milestone on your own. Friends, family, faculty, and staff have all labored to create these opportunities for your success. I encourage you to express gratitude to all those who have accompanied you on your educational journey. Finally, all these ceremonies mark a moment of transition. You are on the precipice of one phase in your life about to launch into another. It may be exciting or exhilarating. It may be anxiety-producing or terrifying. It may be something in-between. Whatever this moment is for you, it will only happen once. I invite you to pause, breathe, and wear your regalia with attention to all that your special day brings.
Congratulations and Best Wishes,
Interim Dean, School of Arts and Humanities
In an earlier blog, I drew your attention to the fact that CSU, Bakersfield has crossed the 10,000 student threshold. As the student population grows, so do our campus facility needs. Arts and Humanities hopes the campus will select our building proposal for a Media and Performing Arts Center as the next major new facility.
Here’s a brief summary of how the Media and Performing Arts Center would serve our campus and community:
The Media and Performing Arts Center will be a two-story building facing Stockdale Highway with a state-of-the-art Communications facility on the second floor and multiple performance spaces on the first floor. The facilities in the Center will support the Public Relations, Journalism, Digital Media, Film, General Education, Theatre, Music, and Liberal Studies programs. The Media and Performing Arts Center will enrich university excellence by greatly expanding our ability to serve our students, support our faculty, and create beneficial partnerships with community stakeholders.
Student-run media is essential to the vitality of a university. It provides news, information, and entertainment to a campus community, engages students in their university experience, and gives real-world training to students planning media careers. Many universities have student-run radio stations, television programs, newspapers, magazines, news websites, filmmaking studios, advertising firms, and more. The Media and Performing Arts Center enables a converged student media operation that will house our Communications faculty and incorporate all platforms under one roof.
Highlights of the second floor Media operations include a 30-station computer lab that functions as a classroom and production lab, a video studio classroom, a business office for The Runner Media Group (newspaper, website, online radio station, and online news video), and a business office for the student-run public relations firm. It also will house the radio station’s studio, a sound recording room, equipment storage room, and offices for faculty. In this experiential learning environment, students will gain a variety of skills across platforms as they train to enter media-related careers. The entire CSUB campus and the surrounding community will also benefit from the variety of media opportunities provided by this operation.
The first floor of the Media and Performing Arts Center includes a black box theatre, film screening room, concession area, practice rooms, and an 800-seat concert hall, which could be expanded to 1400 seats with additional private funding. The State University Administrative Manual (SUAM) under Section VI - Standards for Campus Development Programs specifies two performance space requirements/entitlements. This new facility will allow us to achieve the vision set forth in CSU Auditorium Standards and Board of Trustees policy on the Provision of Large Auditoria on CSU Campuses, which states that CSU campuses should have a 1200 seat large auditorium. The CSU Facilities guidelines also lists five performance/rehearsal spaces for campuses over 5000 FTE which maintain fine arts programs, and the Media and Performing Arts Center will make this vision a reality.
The Center will allow CSUB to become a beacon for the arts and humanities in this area of the Central Valley. This building is necessary to accomplish our mission of providing excellence, creating partnerships, and building community by providing facilities of the highest quality to
train a new generation of performers (artists & musicians) and teachers, and to satisfy the current and future demands in our region and throughout the state. The Media and Performing Arts Center will help us raise our profile in the entire region and help us attract, retain, and graduate talented students from Kern County and beyond.
You can read the full proposal and give your feedback at the Academic Affairs Facilities Master Plan Proposals page.
I don’t use the word “miracle” often. But, I think it’s the best word to describe my change in vision post-surgery last week. As my current eye doctor described it, “It’s not that either of your eyes are that bad, it’s just that you wouldn’t usually find them on the same person.” Or in the words of my childhood eye doctor explaining why I needed my first eye surgery 40 years ago, “it’s as if one of your eyes is a circle and the other is a triangle.”
The recent surgery brought two immediate and dramatic changes. With the addition of bifocals last year (ah, the joys of aging) my eyes were tired, tired, tired – and I lived with a constant eye-strain headache. I awoke after the post-surgery nap, and the headache was gone. Poof. Vanished. I also gained depth perception. I had been told my brain was often using one eye at a time, but to actually experience the world with new depth was unexpected and, frankly, miraculous.
I didn’t know that I couldn’t see.
To shift from the literal to the metaphorical: At its best, a liberal arts education proffers similar results. As the influential 19th century French author Marcel Proust wrote, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” For me, reading “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in my freshman English composition class launched such a voyage of discovery. Confronting the ongoing history of American racism through King’s letter, changed the way I saw my country and myself and continues to goad my lifelong journey to understand the ways religion intersects with oppression and justice.
My first public outing with my “new eyes” was CSU, Bakersfield’s Alumni Hall of Fame Gala where we recognize alumni whose accomplishments and careers have brought honor and distinction to the University. Each recipient spoke eloquently of how CSU, Bakersfield changed how they saw themselves, their potential, and made possible their ability to make the contributions to their community for which they were honored.
This Friday, we will be honoring more recent graduates through The CSUB Alumni Rising Runner program. I look forward to moderating a conversation for our current undergraduates with the four honorees and particularly look forward to meeting Tyree Boyd-Pates, the Rising Runner selected by the Chairs Council of Arts and Humanities.
Tyree has recently blogged on his own encounter with King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, which is worth reading along with his interview for AHA on his experience at CSU, Bakersfield.
You may not be a Rising Runner or a member of the Alumni Hall of Fame (yet!), but you may also have a story of how your educational experience at CSU, Bakersfield gave you “new eyes,” so to speak. We’d love to hear from you. Post a reply, email us (email@example.com), and if you’re in town, come to the Homecoming BBQ this Saturday, February 25th, 2:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m. We will be at the Arts & Humanities tent near Science III.
We all have a perspective to share.
Today, CSU, Bakersfield reached 10,000 students enrolled in the university for the first time in its 47-year history. That’s just about doubled from a decade ago. And we are receiving national recognition of just how valuable – how transformative – a CSU, Bakersfield education can be for each and every one of these 10,000 students.
Researchers affiliated with The Equality of Opportunity Project used big data technology to analyze millions of anonymous tax filings and tuition records from 1999 to 2013 to compare the incomes of college graduates in their 30s from low-income families with those of their parents. Bakersfield ranked #3 in the country in propelling the move of its graduates from low-income to the middle class. According to the New York Times, “82% of our students who enrolled in the late 1990s and came from families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution have ended up in the top three-fifths of the distribution.”
The big data numbers affirm what faculty regularly see in the lives of our students and graduates. As a new professor at CSU, Bakersfield in 2003, I heard the Dean declare “we save lives,” and it struck me as a fairly outrageous bit of hyperbole. But I have seen the transformation this university can make in the lives of individual students, and, over the next several months, we will feature some of their stories in Arts and Humanities Alive.
The morning after reading about CSU, Bakersfield as one of “America’s Great Working Class Colleges,” I boarded a 6 a.m. train to Sacramento to join other CSU leaders for a two-day training on Professional Fundraising for Deans and Academic Leaders. It was fitting. In addition to the good news of economic mobility, the article also reports that according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, state funding for education is down almost 20% per student since 2008.
And so an important part of my job is to partner with our university fundraising professionals and raise money to supplement the approximately 40% of our budget provided by the state for students’ to have the transformative experiences and develop the skills that, among other things, enable their move into middle class and beyond.
Our students are amazing. They are out in the community teaching philosophy to youth and their parents; starting a professional Public Relations firm to serve our community; sharing their history research with internationally renowned professors; introducing elementary school children to the magic of theatre – and the list goes on.
We are connecting the arts and humanities to everyday life.
What we say and what we do … or won’t do
My last Dean’s Corner message spoke to the importance of kind words, especially in turbulent times. I’ve been thinking about the role of the university and the School of Arts and Humanities as we move forward in a country that is deeply divided.
I believe that part of our mission must be to embody the Core Values articulated in CSU, Bakersfield’s Strategic Plan. Included among these are “Developing the intellectual and personal potential of every student; Nurturing a civil and collegial campus environment that values the diversity of persons and ideas; Engaging one another with respect, trustworthiness, ethical behavior, and self-reflection.”
It was with these values in mind, that I read with pride an L.A. Times article from Thursday, November 17th. It included the following affirmation from California State University Chancellor, Timothy White. "Our police departments will not honor immigration hold requests," Chancellor White said. "Our university police do not contact, detain, question or arrest individuals solely on the basis of being … a person that lacks documentation."
With the status of DACA looming, this is a particularly tenuous time for some of our best and brightest members of the CSU community. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center continues to provide information and resources for immigrant families. They have included a new resource for schools as well at ilrc.org.
Yes, kind words do matter. And so do our actions. The School of Arts and Humanities supports Chancellor White’s strong commitment to all of our students.
There is a saying in Jewish tradition that “A person’s tongue is more powerful than his sword. A sword can only kill someone who is nearby; a tongue can cause the death of someone who is far away.”
Two items appeared in my e-mail earlier this week that reminded me of the power our words have. CSU, Bakersfield President Horace Mitchell sent a campus-wide memo affirming freedom of expression as a first amendment right. He rightly avowed that an important part of belonging to a university community is engaging with points of view different from one’s own, even when those ideas make one uncomfortable. In my home discipline of religious studies, we call this skill critical and empathetic understanding – the ability to understand and appreciate others’ worldviews. It involves a willingness to learn from others and to acknowledge the standpoint of one’s own perspective. Freedom of speech is a first amendment right, and it is critical to a democratic citizenry. Preparing all university students for this awesome responsibility is at the core of Arts and Humanities. One reason we cultivate critical thinking and oral communication skills in the general education curriculum and in all of our majors is to promote a reasoned and robust exchange of ideas.
The second item in my e-mail was a link to a two-page spread in The New York Times titled “The 282 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter: A Complete List.” You don’t need to read The New York Times, or look only at Donald Trump, to be dismayed at the commonness of mean-spirited attacks that supposedly pass for objective reporting or the exchange of ideas. Truthfully, way too many of the conversations in my Facebook feed these days are one-sided diatribes. When we engage in character assassination rather than thoughtful discussion (or reasonable silence) whom does this serve? If we are to err in our words, let’s err on the side of generosity.
Avoiding gossip and practicing right speech are important topics in both Judaism and Buddhism, and I’ve heard the following evocative analogy in both traditions. Gossip is like a feather pillow sliced open and thrown to the wind. You can’t take it back, and it causes a mess!
It’s easy to contribute to the gossip, to make snide remarks about a classmate, a co-worker, or a colleague. Un-noble speech seems so in vogue at the moment – the more outrageous the statement, the more airtime it seems to receive. In its stead, we’ve started a hashtag #AHKindWordsMatter. I extend an invitation to practice the principle of generosity, beginning with 140 characters.
It may still be 100 degrees at CSU, Bakersfield, but fall always holds the excitement of possibility at an educational institution – a new cohort of students, staff, and faculty returning refreshed, renewed, and ready to engage students on a journey of discovery.
This year is characterized by change at CSU, Bakersfield including a new multicultural resource center in Rohan (the Old Dorms); a new calendar with the change from quarter to semester; and a new general education curriculum. Within the School of Arts and Humanities, we are fortunate to have nine new tenure-track professors enriching the campus with their teaching and research expertise. The more opportunities I have to meet these remarkable teacher-scholars, the more I look forward to their contributions and what will flourish over the coming years.
One other wonderful change is our up-and-coming Humanities Building. AH advisor Janine Cornelison is posting a weekly picture of the building’s progress. She said, “since the building is going to be built in a year, I was curious to know how fast it gets built by taking a picture every Friday of the progress.” You can log onto Instagram and follow us @csubAHadvising. Every Friday, Janine uses #AHfuturefriday to upload the picture.
For those of us, who haven’t yet embraced the change of Instagram, you can view our building progress at Pictaram.
Best wishes for whatever changes appear before you this season.
Crazy Hat Day
“We need to wear crazy hats on the first day of school,” announced Interim Associate Dean Debra Jackson. I resisted the suggestion at first, but – as is so often the case – came to see the wisdom of our Dean’s Office resident philosopher.
The beginning of the new year is an exciting time. And it can also be a stressful time as students, faculty, and staff navigate their way through a new schedule. Crazy hats could bring much-needed levity and humor to quell the madness. However, I was still a bit reluctant. Students, faculty, and staff need to know that the Dean’s Office has the expertise to assist with their needs. Might “crazy hats” undercut our credibility, I wondered.
Then I remembered my crazy hat. Advisor Adriana Sixtos is wearing the jester’s hat in all its glorious foolishness. History, literature, and folklore are replete with examples of the deceptively simple ‘fool’ whose wise words speak truth to power, and in several spiritual and religious practices the fool or trickster serves as a catalyst for self-discovery.
I received my jester hat from the Faithful Fools who minister in the Tenderloin District where perspective and a sense of humor are crucial. As Interim Dean, I also strive to follow the way of the Fools committed “to each human’s incredible worth. Aware of our judgments, we seek to meet people where they are, through the arts, education, advocacy, and accompaniment.”
And so we welcome you – whoever you are, wherever you are. Let’s laugh together. Let’s learn together.
As I prepare to leave my office on this last day of my position as Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, I recognize the temptation to dwell on the past, to note the accomplishments of our school, our staff, our faculty, our students, and our community. And there have been many in the last six years. But these successes are for the most part documented on this site and elsewhere.
I am much more interested in the future. There is much to celebrate in the coming years for the School of Arts and Humanities. Not least of these is the new Humanities Classroom and Office Building, on which we broke ground June 3. We can also look forward to several new faculty members who bring an array of much-needed expertise to our students, including two art historians (specialists in Contemporary Art and in Latin American and Latino Art History), a historian of China, a religious studies scholar of Asian religions, an instrumental director in the Music department, and a linguist of French and Spanish and Caribbean culture. The school will also be able to look forward to the new leadership of Interim Dean Liora Gubkin, whose experience as associate dean and as a community activist will be a great asset to the mission and vision of the school.
I also note, however, that today is June 16 or what some call Bloomsday, after the protagonist of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses, Leopold Bloom. (My literary roots are showing.)
That novel seems appropriate to note today because of the scope of Joyce’s work, which took the epic journey of Homer’s Odysseus as the structure for Bloom’s day in Dublin, June 16, 1904. We follow Bloom’s wayward and fragmented thoughts through that not especially noteworthy day and come away with a heightened sense of the life of the common man, his inner life and its interconnectedness with the sensuous world around him, his own past and the past of his people and his species.
The effect of this superimposition of the quotidian and the mythic is on one level ironic, highlighting the gap between our smallish contemporary concerns and the assumed magnitude of those of the ancients. But it is not a belittling irony: on the contrary, the common man and woman (for his wife Molly Bloom cohabits his consciousness and gets the last eloquent word) come out as much more heroic in the end than the comparatively flat epic heroes of old. How else interpret the iconic conclusion of Molly’s resounding if somewhat nostalgic “yes” to life, which is so much more convincing and complicated than Penelope’s blind acceptance of a husband who took twenty years to return from a battle for another man’s wife?
Our everyday life in the university can sometimes appear quotidian and dull. It is filled with completing small assignments and bureaucratic requirements. There are classes to attend, articles to read, and reports to write. There are the inevitable petty squabbles over time and space and symbols and reputations. But just as for Leopold Bloom, these everyday tasks can take on heroic proportions, for we all have our dilemmas, our Scyllas and Charybdises; our insurmountable monsters who turn out to be surmountable after all, our Cyclopes; and our
moments of surcease that tempt us to stop our journey short of our goal, our Lands of the Lotos-Eaters.
My friends, colleagues, and staff at the university have wished me well on the next step in what they refer to as my “journey.” And indeed, this will be for me and my family a journey of return to Louisiana, where I will take on a new position as Chief Academic Officer at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.
But like Leopold Bloom, we are all on a journey, not just those of us who are leaving one place for another. The greatest journey is, like Bloom’s, the journey we take every day in the city of our own destiny, whether it is Dublin, or New Orleans, or Bakersfield.
As another great writer, an Alexandrian Greek, Constantine Cavafy pointed out in his poem “Ithaka,” we all have our destinations, our destinies, our Ithakas. And we should make sure that the journey is not hurried, that it is savored. If we take the journey in this way, educating ourselves along the way about everything along the way, our destination cannot disappoint because: “Wise as you have become, so full of experience, / you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.”
But let’s let Cavafy have the last word because there is no better poem from the past with which to confront the future:
As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind--
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard
(C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.
Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992)
Dr. Robert Frakes
Dean of the School of Arts & Humanities